by Fred McMillin
for November 13, 1998


Winery of the Week

Burgundy by the Bay


"The vineyards and cellars of Burgundy are the most hallowed ground of all French vineyards. It has been said that it is the 'viticultural soul' of the nation, matchless throughout the world in the production of incomparable red and dry white wines."

...The Wines of Burgundy, by J. Baxevanis

Founded by 18-year-old Jean-Claude Boisset in 1961, the House of Boisset (bwah-say) today "is one of the largest wine firms of Burgundy."

...The Wine Atlas of France, by Duijker & Johnson

Twenty-six-year-old Jean-Charles Boisset, Jean-Claude's son, becomes the president of the new Boisset U.S.A. firm in 1992 with headquarters in San Francisco. It is soon providing ten million of Boisset's $100 million annual sales. Burgundy has come to the Bay with a bang!

Boisset In Burgundy, Jean-Claude created his juggernaut by buying, aging, blending and selling wine made by others. Jean-Charles Boisset is doing the same in the U.S.A., buying California wines, primarily. Appropriately, this operation was created in BURGUNDY. Let's look briefly at the region's history, to see when and why it developed.

Burgundian Milestones
600 B.C.—A Burgundian princess' tomb contained a seven-foot-high bronze bowl for mixing wine.
50 A.D.—The Romans had organized Burgundian winemaking.
750 A.D. Charlemagne gave his Burgundy vines to the Roman Catholic Church. The monks holdings were growing.
1700 A.D.—Religious organizations owned the vast majority of vineyard-wineries in Burgundy.
1820 A.D.—The French Revolution and Napoleon's decrees abolished church control. A multitude of tiny, privately-owned vineyards was created. Hence, the need arose for firms to collect, process and market the poducts. The new companies became known as "negociants," the French word for "merchant."

Boisset U.S.A Wines

Boisset USA You are going to find many fine values, which we'll cover in individual WineDay articles. Meanwhile, labels to try include the following:

  • Summerlake
  • Christophe
  • Evoluna (from Argentina)
  • Lyeth
  • Wheeler

Critic James Laube's evaluation of the Christophe products agrees with my panel's general reactions. He writes, "The wines are often very good, offering more character and flavor than wines two or three times their price."


There was a time when the wines of Burgundy were too good. They were so popular back in Rome that Emperor Domitian ordered all Burgundy's vineyards destroyed. The ban lasted two centuries.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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